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What's Up With All the Bad Driving? (The risks of driving while stressed)

I was sitting at a red light the other day when another car breezed right through the intersection. It seems that everyone I know has witnessed dangerous driving recently. I bet you have a bad driving story, too. According to the National Safety Council, the number of motor vehicle fatalities between January and April 2023 is 5% higher than the first four months of 2022.

So what’s going on? Did everyone suddenly forget how to drive? Did they stop caring about their safety or the welfare of others? I don’t think so. This behavior is the natural consequence of driving while stressed.

In their 2022 survey “Stress in America,” the American Psychological Association (APA) reported that 27% of adults reported feeling too stressed to function on most days. They were having difficulty concentrating and making decisions. The rate was significantly higher, 46%, for adults under the age of 35.

If you have seen my video on The Biology of Stress, you know that there are profound tangible chemical changes in our body when we are triggered. There’s a list of biological reactions in the video but I want to focus on those that could specifically impact our driving ability.

  • Adrenaline You probably already know that adrenaline floods our bloodstream when we are triggered. The “fight or flight” reaction is our body’s natural survival instinct. Adrenaline speeds up our heart beat and respiration so our body is prepared for action - either to fight the threat or run away from it. Taking action disperses the adrenaline but when fighting or flighting is not an appropriate response, those stress chemicals keep circulating. It can lead to a sense of urgency. Now if you are feeling urgency when you get behind the wheel of a car, what’s going to happen? I believe your right foot is going to get heavy. The urgent need to do something might lead to exceeding the speed limit.

  • Narrowed Focus. When we feel safe, our eyes are naturally relaxed and scanning our environment. But when we are triggered our brain zeroes in on the perceived threat. We develop tunnel vision. Now you may recall from driving school that our eyes should always be scanning - the road ahead, the road behind, and what’s to either side of us.

  • Impaired Executive Functioning the fight or flight response shifts our brain into reaction mode. Again, this is part of the normal survival instinct. If our welfare is threatened we may not have the time to think through a situation - we just need to act and fast. Safe, responsible driving requires the executive functioning of the prefrontal cortex. We need to anticipate and plan. Is that light likely to change before I get to the intersection? What’s my stopping distance at this speed? But when we are in flight or flight mode, our prefrontal cortex is not fully online, which impairs our ability to drive.

Habits that can alleviate stress include:

In addition to our own stress, we are also susceptible to the stress of others. If you have seen my video “What’s Your Superpower? How to be an Agent for Peace” you know that scientists have proven that a person in heart coherence can broadcast a sense of calm that brings the hearts of those around them into coherence as well. Unfortunately, our internal radio stations can also broadcast anxiety. Have you ever had the experience of suddenly feeling anxious and you don’t know why? If may not be your energy. You may be detecting and responding to the energy from someone else. It could be the person who just walked past you in the grocery store aisle or your server in a restaurant or a coworker. Given that nearly 30% of us feel too stressed to function on most days, that’s a lot of anxiety being broadcast to all of us.

Here are some things you can do to you can do to protect yourself from the stress of others.

  • Raise your Shields. Before you go into a situation where you will be around other people - such as work, school, or a store - imagine a protective bubble of energy surrounding you. I know that sounds weird, but it is free and there are no side effects so why not try it? Set the intention to keep other people stress out of your bio field. Imagine you are on the Starship Enterprise and raise your shields.

  • Carry a Crystal. Crystals vibrate energy. Some of the many stones that are good for deflecting unwanted energy include Malachite, Amethyst, Jade, Jasper. You could wear a crystal around you neck, your wrist, or carry it in your pocket. If you decide to purchase a crystal, I highly recommend that you seek out a reputable dealer. Shop in person so you can experience the frequency of different protection stones before purchasing. There’s plenty of resources online explaining how to cleanse and charge your new crystal. People have been using crystals for centuries. It can’t hurt and it might be fun. Fair warning though - diving into crystals can be a slippery slope into an absorbing new hobby!

The more calm, cool, and collected you are the better able you will be to scan for erratic drivers and take protective action. And when you see someone speeding, weaving in and out of traffic, and drifting through red lights - radiate some calm energy in their direction. Obviously they could use it.



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